Nutrition and Exercise

Nutrition and exercise is important through all stages of life and especially in pregnancy. Your baby gets all the nutrients it needs from its mother and your diet could affect the health of baby for its entire life. It’s so important to adapt a healthy balanced diet that will benefit both you and your baby.

Here is a guide on what should and shouldn’t be consumed while pregnant:

Weight Gain

The most important point: Do not attempt to lose weight during pregnancy.

The myth of eating for two is misleading, as you only need an additional 300-500 kcal/day in the second and third trimester. This equates to an extra snack or two a day. In order to cover the growth of the baby you need to gain at least 7kg (15lbs) The average weight gain during pregnancy is 11-12.5 kg (25-28 lbs) which is mostly put on during the second trimester. However, if you are overweight you should aim to put on a little less, and vice versa if you are underweight at the time of your pregnancy. Seek further advice from your doctor, dietitian or midwife.


High doses of Caffeine are not recommended during pregnancy, as consuming more than 200ug per day has shown to have a negative effect on the baby’s birth weight. 2 cups of coffee/ 4 cups of tea are generally OK, but limit your intake of foods and drinks which contain caffeine such as chocolate and cola.


Alcohol passes through the placenta and increases the risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, or can lead to physical, growth or mental problems in your developing baby. It is advised not to drink alcohol during your pregnancy.

Food Safety

  1. Eat Fresh: Freshly cooked food; well washed fruit and vegetables; if eating out order hot dishes.
  2. Avoid rare and uncooked meats, seafood, deli meat and hot dogs as there is a risk of listeria which can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. Avoid refrigerated meat and fish pates (canned/shelf stable meats are safe)
  3. Avoid Raw Eggs found in home-made salad dressings, ice-cream or custard.
  4. Avoid Soft cheeses such as Feta, Brie, Camembert and Goats Cheese (unless labelled pasteurised) and mould-ripened cheese like blue-veined cheese.
  5. Avoid liver and liver products as they contain high levels of Vitamin A.
  6. Avoid fish such as swordfish, marlin, shark and ray as they have a high mercury content.
  7. Avoid empty calories e.g. Sweeteners, chocolate, soft drinks



Food Servings
Protein: Meat, Chicken, Eggs, Cheese, Beans 3 servings per day
Calcium: milk, yoghurt, hard cheese 5 servings per day
Fruit and Vegetables 5 servings per day
Potatoes, bread, wholegrain/high fibre 6 servings per day
 Pregnancy Exercise

Exercising during pregnancy is important as staying fit will allow you to cope

better during pregnancy and labour. Exercising also helps to relieve stress and provides you with an opportunity to meet other expecting mothers at the same stage of pregnancy as you. If you exercise during your antenatal period it can help manage gestational diabetes (combined with a healthy diet and medication) as well as help post-natal recovery.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Exercising

Thirty minutes or more of moderate exercise a day everyday or most days is recommended. Moderate means being able to exercise and talk at the same time e.g. Holding a conversation whilst walking. Keep in mind that some movements might cause pain or discomfort depending on your flexibility and where your baby is lying.

  • Do not allow allow your heart rate excess sixty to seventy percent of maximum heart rate levels i.e. 140 beats/Min
  • Don’t overheat. Your body temperature will change during exercise so make sure there is plenty of ventilation and drink lots of fluid
  • Do eat enough and regularly as your nutritional intake increases with exercise
  • Don’t hold your breath whilst doing any exercise
  • After 16 weeks do not exercise flat on your back for more than five minutes due to circulatory adaptations
  • Don’t scuba dive at any point during your pregnancy

Cardiovascular Exercise

This includes walking, swimming, cycling and can be done for 20 minutes, three times a week. Start slowly and gradually increase the time to 30 minutes. Make sure you follow guidelines for heart rate, body heat and nutritional intake, and you will need to slowdown in the later stages of your pregnancy.

Exercise Classes

Exercise classes are a great way to meet other mums to be. Classes such as pilates, yoga, and aqua classes are great, especially if they have been tailored for pregnancy. In these pregnancy classes there will be a focus on breathing control, relaxation and posture. Contact your antenatal department about local classes and check the instructor is qualified to take a pregnancy class.

If classes or the gym aren’t for you take a daily walk. Taking the stairs as opposed to the lift will also strengthen leg muscles. Gentle housework is great to keep yourself moving and flexible. Be sure to bend from your knees, and keep your face and feet in the same direction (avoid twisting and turning).

Exercise Ball

Sitting on one these ‘swiss’, ‘physio’, or ‘birthing’ balls while at a desk or watching TV is a great way to work the pelvic muscles and relieve lower back strain. Ensure it’s the right size for you; your hips and knees should rest in a ninety degree angle.

Pregnancy Exercises


  • Cardiovascular, non-weightbearing exercise
  • Helps relieve postural strains and taking the weight of the baby off the spine
  • Don’t over strain pelvic joints (particular doing breast stroke)


  • Cardiovascular, weight bearing exercise
  • Supportive footwear recommended
  • Respect pelvic joins and don’t walk through pain


  • Minimal weight bearing – modified positions
  • Increases postural awareness while body changes
  • Strengthening of pelvic support muscles
  • Flexibility and breathing work
  • Some classes may use Swiss balls


  • Minimal/modified weight bearing
  • Flexibility
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Useful positions for labour

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